Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review Kindergarten by Susan Case


Kindergarten: Tattle-tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents
by Susan Case

* I received this book for review from the author. No promise of a good review was made. No compensation was received. The review is based on my honest opinion of the book.*

This book can easily be read and understood by both teachers and parents. It touches on many subjects dealing with children preschool to kindergarten age, (although I am certain you could go a bit beyond). The author was a teacher both in regular education and special education, as well as being a mother, (one of her children is a special needs child). She brings her education and experience  together in an exceptional book.  I loved reading of happenings in her classroom. I know from dealing with my own children and now Junior, you need to be very clear with what you invite a child to do at, or bring to, school. 
In her first chapter she spoke on "Show and Tell". This was a concept  Junior first heard of on a television program. He was very into it. When school started he was excited to have the opportunity to put this in action. Fortunately, he told me what he wanted to show and tell, ( he was into potty jokes at the time and had decided his naked butt would be hysterical and even had a dance worked out), and we were able to shift it to a book he enjoyed. I'm certain the teacher appreciated the book more, (although I am equally certain his show would have been talked about for years). 
In chapter 2 she takes us through Holidays and celebrating life. Some of the stories were tearjerkers. She shares some wonderful ideas in this chapter that can be used in the classroom or at home. A few would work especially well with homeschooling children of various ages, (here in Alaska home school is common in some areas). I especially like the one that joins older children with younger ones to make Holiday cards for the military. Imagine how difficult it is to be so far from home during the holidays and then throw in the stress of the job. I'm sure the homemade cards from children cheer up many of our men and women, ( for more information on this program please go to Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes. It starts this year on October 3rd). She even has ideas for a Splash Day. We all know how much fun that is for children. 
Chapter 3 is an excellent one for parents of younger children. Some important things a child needs to know before going to school is discussed here. Things like how to prepare for the first day of school, (start a schedule a few weeks ahead of time), manners, communication and play skills as well as one I think is important regardless of a child's age, Family Time. In addition to make sure we eat dinner together, my children grew up with Monday night being family night. Having fun together as a family is the object here. As my children got older they could plan it, (which helped keep their interest), and it was never given as an option. That night was mandatory participation, (illness exclusion permitted). 
Chapter 4 looks at something I and I think most of you agree on - the importance of reading. She shares a touching story in this chapter with Hugs from Seaver. Topic here include when a child is ready to read, bonding through books, reading time, reading groups, favorite books, statistics, websites that offer worksheets and activities, educational tv shows, a blog site, and sites that donate books. Here in Alaska we take part in Dolly Parton: Imagination Station Library at www.imaginationlibrary.com. Parents are encouraged to sign their children up at birth and the child then receives a book each month until age 5. It is an amazing program. The first book Junior received was the Little Engine That Could. He still loves that story. 
Chapter 5 looks at Science. One of Junior's favorite things to play with is found here...worms. Any kind of worm will catch his attention. He can spot a worm from great distances. It is amazing to see, (yes that is a laughing sound you hear from the woman who would rather leave the worms alone). Ms Case shares some delightful stories about bugs and worms. She shares about the 5 senses , gardening, making rock candy, ( a favorite of my children), butterflies, ants and owls. I think all children are naturally drawn to some aspect of nature. 
Chapter 6 brings us to discipline. I was happy to see this included. I think young children need to have consistency with discipline across the board. It is confusing for children, (especially special needs children who may come in contact with several different adults each day: service provider, respite, teacher, teacher aide, bus driver, bus aide, parents), to have everyone using different methods of discipline and rules. Some are necessary and fine but I do think a majority should be consistent. Ms Case opens this chapter with a story I loved. She had asked the question why do you come to school? One of the children gave the answer, " So you won't be some silly maniac kid." Priceless. I like her ideas of KISS, TX Bear, the Marble Jar. Behavior Charts, Rewards, Choices and, one I employ often,  Pick Your Battles. I have said this over and over to young parents, babysitters and caregivers. It is way less stressful to pick your battles. If you have been consistent from the start this one is easy to incorporate. For me the majors are issues of respect, health and safety, (both for themselves as well as others). Just about everything else I will weigh with Junior's age and reasoning. He knows fairly well which rules he can test and which ones will get him shut down when he has barely begun the test. She also speaks of when to seek help, patience, forgiveness and the fine art of letting it go. She shares the need for us to be responsible role models, (you can tell a child something 100 times but if you are showing them something different, you can count on them mimicking you), and what teachers hope to get from parents. 
Chapter 7 dives into the world of Special Education. It is a chapter not everyone will need but it is important to a number of parents. The walk through the special ed maze can be confusing and difficult. When she speaks of documentation she is speaking to teachers but as someone who has been around the maze more times than I care to remember I am advising parents to document too. Make a file on your child. Write down your observations. It will help you not only in getting the educational needs of your child met but will also help your doctor and therapists meet your child's needs. Ms Case also shares tips for the ARD's, (those admission, review meetings that pop up every year). Your documentation will be extremely useful in getting your child's services and goals correct. She also includes a section on autism and a personal note regarding being a parent of a special needs child.
Chapter 8 is a fun chapter.  It is the list chapter. I loved it. If you deal with children on a regular basis you want to check this chapter out. It is short and direct. 
Chapter 9 is filled with fun and delicious recipes to have your child help with. She takes you through the alphabet with them. One of  Junior's favorite's is the Volcano Cake recipe. It is easy and I love it too - it's chocolate - enough said. 
Chapter 10 is about random acts of kindness and teachers, parents and children as heroes.  I think of it as the heart of the book.

I really love this book. I have recommended it teachers and to caregivers that have worked with Junior, particularly those who are in school to get degrees to work with children. I also recommend it to parents and expectant parents. It is a book you will come back to several times, (if for nothing else than being stressed out and needing to laugh at one of the author's classroom stories). I consider it a must have book for anyone who wants to do their best for a child or children in their lives. 

Kindergarten is widely available in both print and e copy. I recommend the print copy just because it is easier to flip to an exact page. 

The author Susan Case has a blog:  http://kindergartenbasics.blogspot.com/
Her twitter name is @susancasetexas

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